When we moved in the house had an awkward opening in the basement. The opening was rather wide, had no door framed in and leads to a little eyesore of a room with old carpet that where we keep the treadmill. It also has a door to the back yar. I figured I'd try my hand at a custom-made sliding barn door for this location, seemed like a good opportunity to add some more flavor to the basement along with it's new carpet, can lights, base molding and wall paint.
I purchased 2 3/4 inch 4X8 sanded plywood sheets from home depot as well as a bunch of standard rectangle molding from homedepot.com. If you don't have a truck, homedepot.com is like amazon for the DIY'er. For long, difficult to transport things such as molding, nothing beats free shipping to your door! Between work, the kids and the rest of my farm tasks, these doors took me much longer than I anticipated. With carpentry projects like this it is important to take as long as you need to get it right. Nothing worse than painting something with spot you forgot to sand or some caulking you didn't get exactly right. Take your time, engross yourself, enjoy the journey, love the results.
• 3/4 inch 4X8 sheets of sanded plywood
• Enough 3 1/4"H X 1 5/8 W MDF for the job design
• Gorilla glue wood glue
• 1 1/4" nail gun nails
• Wood putty
• Sand paper
• Paintable caulk
• White Behr paint and primer semi-gloss
I made the door so it was 2 inches wider and 4 inches taller than the opening. Once I decided on the measurement, I cut the 3/4" sanded plywood to that size with my old trusty circular saw. After cutting the plywood the next step was to cut and fasten the molding pieces around the edges, this was pretty straightforward – each piece was cut to length on my chop saw and both glued and nailed to the plywood. One of my favorite tools is my Ryobi ONE+ 18V nailer you see in the picture above. No compressor, no hose, no noise, just free to move around and nail where I need to, more on that tool, and other favorites, another time.
After the border pieces were done I got to the more technical part of designing, cutting and attaching the decorative pieces in the middle of the door. The first step was to find the mid-point of the door's height and attach that piece right across the middle. I then cut the top and bottom pieces of the design. This was the most intricate part of the process. I won't lie, the first piece took me 2 tries, good thing MDF is cheap. I knew the angle where the boards would come together was a 90 degree cut so, after screwing it up, I lined that end up and cut it first. Once that 90 degree cut was set i was able to see where the piece would meet the border pieces and what the angle would be.
I used an angle tool I learned about from an experienced carpenter (pictured below). It doesn't require the use of a speed square, you just tight the angle down and use it to draw the line on the piece and set the saw. It's actually called a "sliding t-bevel." Its a great tool to have for woodworking. Ordered here: https://www.amazon.com/Swanson-TS149-Hardwood-Stainless-Fittings/dp/B000IOGGTW/ref=sr_1_1?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1529295346&sr=1-1&keywords=sliding+t+bevel
Prep & Paint:
Once all the pieces were set I got to work with the wood putty on each joint. This takes time and patience. On a project like this, to get each joint looking really good, you often need to putty and sand multiple times to really make the nail holes and cracks disappear. Only after this is done should you caulk the edges between the MDF and the plywood because any additional sawdust from sanding can get lodged in the caulking and be a real pain.
Again, putty and sand first then follow up with the caulking and then on to painting. Use as little caulk as necessary and a wet finger and a rag to get it looking really good.
For the edges, where you could see the seam between the MDF and the plywood I used a thin application of drywall mud. 2 or 3 applications and some good sanding made that disappear.
After a few weeks of intermittent puttying, sanding, caulking and questions like "Are you ever gonna' get that door done?" I moved onto painting. I originally had the idea of spraying the door using a compressor and sprayer I borrowed from a coworker but I didn't like the mess, the paint cloud and the results I was getting so, after a thin coat was applied with the sprayer, to finish the door with a trusty ol' Purdy paint brush. As usual, with Purdy and Behr Paint and Primer, the results were good.
Let's start with the hardware. My neighbor had done a few of these in his house during a remodel and he suggested a box rail sliding door kit for safety. The box rail strategy doesn't roll as smoothly, which was important to me, I wanted this thing to feel like butter. Additionally, when I went to a local hardware supply store and started adding up the costs, I quickly found it was going to be much more expensive than a system I had been looking at on Amazon.com, and that I would need to cut and paint the box rail and wheels to get the system looking the way I wanted. In the end, as with a few things in life, I went with the 8 foot rail on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01JWHSI0K/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
As with most projects, when I got to near the end, everything didn't work out exactly as I had hoped. This door location has open unobstructed wall space on one side and a corner on the other, so when I set the door up to install the wheels for the rail, I realized they weren't going to line up with the beefy, MDF outer border of the door, which I knew was necessary to support the weight of the door and the length of the bolts for attaching the wheels. I solved this problem by determining where the wheels would go and adding two small pieces of MDF to attach them to.
Once this was done it was pretty easy from there. I was extremely satisfied with the amazon hardware. I found the studs, added 1 1/16" to the top of the door and put the rail up making sure it was level. I then installed the wheels on the door by drilling holes for the bolts and using a socket wrench to tighten them. Then I set the wheels on the track and the door rolled super smooth right away, what a great feeling to see that thing going back and forth so nicely. From there I decided where I wanted it to stop, installed the stopper on the wall end of the track (with one of those tiny Allen wrenches like you use on towel hanger hardware), installed the 2 small pieces on the top of the door that keep it from jumping off of the track and officially checked the project off the list. Yes!
My wife was so happy to see this get finished, it really completed the basement nicely and you can tell how much time and effort I put into the project when you see the results. It looks pro, not because I'm a great carpenter (although I am getting better) but because I took as long as I needed to to get it right. This was a great example of just chipping away at a project; a few hours here, a few there, step by step. Being able to work that way, having that marathon attitude isn't only beneficial during DIY projects, it's also valuable in life! When you have those long projects at work, that take months, or even years to get off the list, or when you're struggling with some habits one of the kids has gotten into, or a stage they're in. You have no choice but to take it day by day, add putty and sand, putty and sand, caulk and wipe, paint stroke by stroke, first coat, second coat, third coat, tinkering as you go. And that's why it feels so good when you're done. Now I can move on to the next project and feel good about this door every time I go to the basement. I love completing this kind of work and saving money at the same time!